Team Suzuki Press Office – August 17.
RCH Suzuki Factory Racing’s Ken Roczen and Broc Tickle came out swinging when the bell rang for Round 11 in Saturday’s Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Zions Bank Utah National at Miller Motorsports Park.
Soaring Eagle/ Jimmy John’s/ Suzuki Factory Racing riders Roczen was a staple at the front of the field in both motos, racing his way to a 2-2 result and securing a second-place overall finish. Meanwhile, Tickle finished a season-best third in the first moto and seventh in the second to bring his Suzuki RM-Z450 home with a fifth-place overall effort.
Both motos played-out like a heavyweight prize fight between two of the sports marquee names: Roczen snatched the lead in the early going of the first moto, stretched his advantage only to be reeled in by 2015 Pro Motocross Champion Ryan Dungey.
Dungey, the 2010 and 2012 series champion secured his third title by sweeping both motos and totalling a hefty 93-point lead into next weekend’s season finale in Crawfordsville, Indianapolis
“My weekend was pretty good,” commented Roczen. “We made some changes during the week and basically went back to what we had at Unadilla. That’s what I felt the most comfortable with. It was good. The first moto, I grabbed a decent start and fought hard with Ryan (Dungey) for the just about the whole moto. He got me towards the end. It was all good. We’re improving every single weekend and that makes me happy.”
In the second moto, Roczen made quick work of holeshot-winner Phil Nicoletti to grab the point and opened up a lead as large as four seconds. But, much like the first moto, Dungey eventually tracked-down the defending series champion and made the pass with only a handful of laps to go.
“Second moto, I grabbed another good start but went a little wide and (Phil) Nicoletti snuck through on the inside,” continued Roczen. “Me and Ryan, again were fighting it out the whole time and I made another little mistake. He got by me and gapped me a little bit. Overall, it was a 2-2 and we finished second. We’re getting better every time we go out. We’ve got one more to go and we’ll try and get the overall (win) at that one.”
With only two races left in the season and a handful of points separating him from the top five, Tickle felt a sense of urgency heading into Saturday, bur he seized the day with solid performances in both motos.
When the gate dropped on the first 450 moto Saturday afternoon, Tickle used that sense of urgency to focus on the task at hand and carve-out his place amongst the front-runners. The 25-year-old veteran started sixth and made forward progress, ultimately finishing third when the chequered flag waved on the first moto.
“First moto, I came out sixth and made a couple passes in the first two laps and get into fourth,” explained Tickle. “Justin Barcia went down and I got up to third. I rode there pretty much by myself at a good pace. I saw Blake Baggett coming at the end but I picked-up the pace and held him off. It was good. Obviously, I’ve been working on that all year so it was good for the team and for me. It’s nice to get that podium before the end of the season. I just need to put both motos together.
“It was a solid weekend. I didn’t qualify that well but I knew I had it in me. I’ve been working hard during the week, doing the stuff I need to so I’m prepared when I get to the racetrack. It was hot and the elevation played a role. The track was tricky and I feel like I stand out in those kinds of situations. I was looking forward to the first moto. I tried to pick a gate away from all those guys who always get good starts and that helped me focus a little bit on the starting line.”
Despite earning his best finish of the season in the first moto, Tickle struggled a bit in the second but still earned a respectable seventh-place finish and lock-down his third top-five of the year.
“Second moto, I made a mistake on the second lap and got passed by four guys so that didn’t help,” Tickle said. “I ended up seventh. It was still a good race. The track was really tough. It was hard to flow. You really had to push it to keep yourself out of trouble. It was almost one of those tracks where you could get in more trouble riding slow than if you over-did it. There at the end, I pushed through and did the best I could. We ended fifth overall and we’re closing in on fifth in points. I’m looking forward to this week and finishing the season strong.”
With the series heading to the final event of the season, Roczen is third in the standings but now trails Justin Barcia by only five. The fight for a top-five points finish will also come down to the scorecard next weekend with Tickle trailing fifth-place Christophe Pourcell by a four-point margin.
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